Opposition pounces on Netanyahu’s housing plan

Mofaz says PM’s actions meant to "cover his derriere"; Lieberman defends measures.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
July 26, 2011 19:00
3 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

 
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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman criticized the leadership candidates of Kadima and Labor on Tuesday after they took turns slamming the housing plan unveiled by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Speaking at an event at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, Lieberman said the issue should “be put back into perspective” amid Israel’s growing economy compared to economic troubles in Europe and the US.

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“Look at the crises the European Union is facing,” Lieberman said.

“There is now a second plan being implemented to rescue Greece. Look at the economic hardships in the US. Here, thank God, we have growth.

In terms of macroeconomics, we’re still okay. In Europe, they’re saying our troubles are troubles of the rich. Let’s put things back into perspective,” the foreign minister added.”

Kadima‘s Tzipi Livni said Netanyahu was acting to bring down the protest tents that have been erected across the country when he should be working to build houses.

“Instead of changing economic policies and managing those bodies under [his control], Netanyahu is shirking responsibility, continuing to spread slogans that won’t solve the social problems and lessen the burden of young people and the state of building in Israel,” Livni said.

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“Netanyahu doesn’t understand that the problem isn’t technical, but fundamental.

In order to solve the country’s problems, we need complete national political change, not marginal solutions.”

Kadima leadership candidate Shaul Mofaz called Netanyahu’s plan a “Bibibluff.”

He said Netanyahu acted too late and was merely trying to “cover his behind.”

Labor leadership candidate Isaac Herzog said “Netanyahu’s plans will never be implemented, just like all of his others haven’t been, including the train to Eilat.” The public, he said, “doesn’t buy his promises.”

Fellow candidate Amram Mitzna said “Netanyahu once again proved that he is very good at explaining things but does not know how to get the country out of the mud.”

Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich sharply disagreed with Netanyahu’s assertion Tuesday that state ownership of land constituted an economically, unhealthy monopoly.

“The fact that most of the land in Israel is controlled by the state is not a market failure, it is Zionist and [holds] environmental value,” Yacimovich said.

“The attempt to connect the state’s control of the land to the housing shortage is an attempt to misguide the public and a cynical attempt at using demonstrations as an excuse to initiate destructive economic polices that will harm the middle class and empower tycoons.”

Much of the prime minister’s plan to solve the housing crisis will be implemented in the relevant ministries, however a number of bills will have to be passed in order to make the reforms possible.

Netanyahu’s national building and planning committees bill, which is meant to circumvent bureaucracy in the construction process, is likely to pass with the coalition’s support when it is brought to a vote in the Knesset next Monday.

Opposition MKs have already submitted their objections to the bill, with Kadima focusing on its general tone.

“The bill lists accessible housing as one of its goals, but it doesn’t have any details,” a Kadima spokesman said. “How can we pass a law that is so vague? This bill is like a car without an engine. It looks great, but it can’t actually move.”

In addition, most bills in the government’s Lands Authority reform, which Netanyahu has said will lead to lower land prices, have already passed with little fanfare or objections from the opposition.

The final bills in the reform are expected to be brought to second and third (final) readings in the plenum next week.

Israel Beiteinu plans to continue voting in favor of Netanyahu’s housing reforms, although Lieberman expressed disappointment last week at the prime minister’s opposition to parliamentary inquiry committees into the activities of nongovernmental organizations that harm the IDF. Lieberman also accused the Likud of selective application of coalition discipline.

“We know how to separate the issues, and we will continue to support the reforms,” a party spokesman said.

Michael Omer-Man and Steven Terner contributed to this report.

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